The Day Our Grandmothers Warned Us About

[Note: this is a repost from my Tumblr. The original post was published on May 3, 2022.]

Just a head’s up: this isn’t going to be as polished as my usual blog posts. I didn’t plan this post in advance, so this is kind of just a stream-of-consciousness thing to help me process what’s going on right now. Apologies for any factual or grammatical errors.

Today is a really weird day for me. I finished my bachelor’s degree this morning, alone on my couch at 9:00 AM. But the fact that I just completed my undergrad has kind of been overshadowed, because I woke up this morning to the news that the Supreme Court is drafting a decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

(I think there’s some confusion about what “drafting a decision” means: has the Court made a decision or not? Justice Alito’s draft is of a majority opinion, which means the Court has already voted and that the result of the vote was to overturn Roe and Casey. However, during the drafting process they’ll continue discussion, and it’s not unheard of for Justices to change their votes during this process. But I’ll be honest, I don’t think that’s likely given the current, right-leaning makeup of the Court.

TLDR: The decision isn’t official yet, so there will be no immediate changes to US law, but it’s unlikely that any of the Justices will change their vote, so we will almost definitely see Roe overturned in the next two months.)

Can I be honest for a second? I’m really scared.

Roe v. Wade being overturned used to be a “that could never happen” scenario for me. Changes to Supreme Court law are really, really infrequent, and they typically require some sort of new argument that shines a new light on the case. There are no new arguments in the abortion debate. It’s been at a standstill literally since the Middle Ages. We’ve all heard all of the talking points before.

Roe and Casey have also provided a convenient rallying point for conservatives. It’s been a very easy moral appeal for political candidates — claiming you want to fight abortion basically guarantees you the white, evangelical vote, but because it’s a Supreme Court issues there’s historically been very little individual politicians could do about it. It’s an empty promise that you never have to fulfill.

Just a few years ago, the general consensus among political scholars (at least according to my college political science classes) was that Republicans didn’t actually want to overturn Roe because they would lose their easy appeal to single-issue, anti-abortion voters. Basically, it was all talk. That, like a lot of things about how American politics used to work, has gone out the window with the birth of the Trump-style Far Right and Alt-Right movements.

And now, for the second time in 18 months, I’m watching my phone for updates on news stories that don’t feel like they could possibly be real. First it was the attack on the US Capitol by alt-right insurrectionists on January 6th, 2021. And now it’s the largest step backwards for bodily autonomy since before my parents were born.

And it’s not just about abortion. Reproductive justice has never just been about abortion.

It’s about my right, and the right of every person regardless of gender or anatomy, to decide if, when, and under what circumstances they want to have children. This includes the right to prevent pregnancy with birth control, the right to get pregnant if/when we want to, and the right to needed fertility treatments. It’s the right to adoption, surrogacy, and paid parental leave. It’s the right to freedom from forced sterilization and to adequate medical care. It’s the rights to comprehensive sex education and to give birth in the way we want to. And yes, it’s the right to terminate a pregnancy.

When Roe is overturned, thousands of Americans are going to lose some or all of those rights. I’ll probably be one of them.

I live in Georgia, which infamously passed a “heartbeat bill” in 2020 that banned abortion after six weeks. (For the record, many people don’t even realize they’re pregnant that early.) The bill was ultimately ruled to be unconstitutional, but Georgia still has a strong anti-abortion policy, including requiring people seeking abortion to get counseling specifically designed to discourage them before they can get the procedure, and only providing pubic funding for abortion in cases of “life endangerment,” rape, or incest.

In September, 2021, Texas passed Senate Bill 8, its own version of the heartbeat bill, which effectively banned abortion after six weeks and, for some extra dystopian flare, offers a $10,000 bounty to any Texas citizen who reports anyone who helps a pregnant person obtain an abortion — including by helping them travel to another state where the procedure is legal. Several states have “trigger bans” on the books that will go into effect as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned, many of which ban abortion completely. I wouldn’t be surprised if Georgia’s heartbeat bill makes a comeback.

See, here’s the thing: the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t ban abortion on a national level, but it gives states the ability to decide their own laws, up to and including a total ban. Theoretically, that should mean that a pregnant person in a state like Texas could travel to a state like Colorado, which has state-level abortion protections. But conservative states are getting around this by following Texas’s lead and mobilizing citizens to crack down on out-of-state abortions.

In the pre-Roe days, Americans who wanted to terminate their pregnancies and could afford to travel went to other countries to get safe, legal abortions — like Sherri Finkbine, a television host who famously went to Sweden to get an abortion after being exposed to thalidomide. Under policies like Texas’s, even this could be subject to punishment.

And frankly, if that doesn’t sound like some dystopian horror shit, I don’t know what does.

I am very lucky in that I have never needed or wanted an abortion. I have medical insurance that covers my preferred method of birth control. Birth control works really well for me, without many side effects. And I want kids! I want to be pregnant someday! And I am still fucking terrified.

I don’t talk about it often, but I have a reproductive disorder that can cause various pregnancy complications, including a 300% higher chance of miscarriage and a higher risk of preeclampsia, which can be life-threatening. There is a chance that any eventual pregnancy of mine will be high risk. Which means I’ll need healthcare — and I may not be able to get that care without Roe v. Wade.

Let’s talk for a second about incomplete miscarriage. That’s when a pregnancy is miscarried, but the body can’t pass the dead embryo or fetus on its own. It’s horrific, and if left untreated it can cause an infection or sepsis. If the body doesn’t pass the tissue on its own, the pregnant person will need treatment in the form of a dilation and curettage (D&C) surgery or by taking misoprostol, aka “the abortion pill.” Except… both of those treatments are technically abortions, and because of that are banned in states like Texas.

It’s currently illegal in Texas for doctors to give misoprostol to patients who are more than seven weeks pregnant. And under Texas’s new laws, doctors are unable to offer D&Cs unless a patient is quote, “in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.” That means that, even in the case of an incomplete miscarriage, pregnant people have to wait until they get sick enough to be considered in danger of death — and by that point, it may be too late.

Let’s recap: I have a medical condition that, among other things, increases my chance of miscarriage if I get pregnant. Since between 10% and 20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and I’m three times more likely to miscarry, that’s a 30-60% chance. Let’s split the difference and call it a 45% chance that I’ll miscarry my (planned and wanted) pregnancy. And it’s highly likely that, by the time I’m ready to stat trying for that pregnancy, my state will have passed laws making it illegal for my doctor to treat my miscarriage.

So, when my partners and I decide we’re ready for kids, there’s almost a 1-in-2 chance that I will miscarry my first pregnancy, and my doctor may be severely limited in how they are able to help me.

If that happens my options will be: 1. Wait it out and hope my body passes the fetus on its own before infection sets in; 2. Schedule an appointment in a state where abortion is still legal and hope I don’t go into labor on the plane ride there; or 3. Attempt a “self-induced” or “DIY” abortion. Option 1 is dangerous and could lead to serious health problems, a loss of fertility, or death. Option 2 is expensive and traumatic. Option 3 is dangerous and traumatic, and although it’s technically legal in Georgia, I could still be arrested on other charges like improper handling of human remains.

Oh, and if I go with Option 2 or 3, I’ll have to do it without help if Georgia has passed Texas-style abortion laws. Under those laws, anyone who helps a pregnant person obtain an abortion can be sued, even if they were using legal means to get one. So if my partner goes with me to a clinic in another state, or even drives me to the airport, they could potentially be punished. If they help me with a self-induced abortion or take care of my while I’m recovering, they could be sued for assisting in an abortion — even though the abortion was legal.

Those are the legal, probably-legal, and semi-legal options. There’s also always underground abortion providers, which may or may not be safe and definitely aren’t legal.

What did our mothers and grandmothers do before Roe v Wade? Frankly, they died. They died from being forced to carry dangerous pregnancies to term. They died from sepsis from untreated miscarriages. They died from unsafe, illegal abortions and from DIY procedures gone wrong. And it is fucking horrifying that, in 2022, we’re going back to that.

Recommended Reading:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: